- Standard Number:
OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.
June 7, 2001
[Name & Address Withheld]
Thank you for your February 7, 2001 letter addressed to the Honorable Marcy Kaptur. It was forwarded to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Compliance Programs in March 2001 for a response. Your letter addresses your family's concerns about the potential exposures that your father may have had in his employment with [Withheld to protect privacy].
Your concerns surface as a result of a recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette which illustrated worker exposures to hazardous materials, specifically beryllium and uranium. The company your father worked for was mentioned in this article and you are interested in knowing if your father worked with these hazardous materials during his employment at this company and whether potential negative health outcomes could have ensued as a result. We are sorry to hear of the loss of your father. We hope that this letter serves as useful information for you and your family.
You mentioned in your letter that your father was employed at a steel plant from 1948 until 1984. OSHA's Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records (29 CFR 1910.1020) was effective on August 21, 1980. Since that time, employers have been required to keep medical records (e.g., medical histories and physician's written opinions) and exposure records (e.g., environmental and biological monitoring) relating to occupational illnesses and injuries for the employee's length of employment, plus thirty years. This standard provides employees and their designated representatives a right of access to relevant exposure and medical records. Access to this information is necessary to yield both direct and indirect improvements in the detection, treatment, and prevention of occupational disease.
Please be aware that OSHA's mandate covers relationships between employers and employees or employee representatives (anyone with written authorization to exercise a right of access for the employee). You may want to contact the company that your father worked for to see if medical or exposure records are available. Please be aware that the company would not be required to keep records from before the effective date of OSHA's Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records standard and may not have exposure information regarding the bulk of his employment history.
Occupational exposures to beryllium and uranium are regulated by OSHA through the enforcement of permissible exposure limits (PELs) listed in OSHA's Air Contaminants standard, Subpart Z, 29 CFR 1910.1000 (May 1971). OSHA enforces these standards to ensure that employees are not exposed to air contaminants above the PEL. The current 8-hour time weighted average (TWA) or PEL for beryllium is 2 µ/m3 and for uranium, 0.25 mg/m3. These limits are based on air sample measurements that are taken in an employee's breathing zone during a regular 8-hour work shift of a 40-hour work week. The Air Contaminants standard addresses the controls which must be put in place where an exposure to these contaminants exists, specifically including implementing engineering and work practice controls and providing and using personal protective equipment (e.g., respirators, gloves, etc.).
On May 31, 2001, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) launched a toll-free number (1-866-888-3322) in response to the passage of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. Affected workers can call this number with questions about the program. The Department of Labor, which will administer compensation and medical benefits, has primary responsibility under the Act, though other federal agencies share responsibilities. The toll-free number can also be used to request application forms. Updated information will be posted on DOL's website at www.dol.gov.
Another resource available to you is the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Worker Advocacy. This office assists in providing compensation to employees of the DOE, its contractors and subcontractors, companies that supply beryllium to the DOE, and atomic weapons employers. The [Withheld] is one of the many companies covered by DOE's Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program. You may reach this program at:
Office of Worker Advocacy (EH-8) U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20585
World Wide Web: http://tis.eh.doe.gov/advocacy/
Additionally, if you are interested in obtaining research- and statistically-based information about occupational injuries and illnesses related to occupational exposures to hazards (i.e., beryllium, uranium) in mines or general industry, you may contact the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) at:
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
4676 Columbia Parkway
Cincinnati, OH 45226-1998
Fax (513) 533-8573
Again, we are sorry for your loss and we hope that you find this information useful. We encourage you to contact any of the agencies or offices listed in this letter to gather more information. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the [Office of Health Enforcement] at (202) 693-2190.
R. Davis Layne
Acting Assistant Secretary